Migration and climate

German activities

Ethiopian nomads who have settled in a village in the Somali region of Ethiopia due to prolonged drought.

People who experience migratory pressure as a result of climate change impacts must be given special support – regardless of whether they actually migrate or whether they are unable, or unwilling, to migrate (known as "trapped populations").

To provide such support, the German government uses several approaches in its development cooperation programme. For example:

  • Measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will eventually lead to a reduction in extreme weather events and limit slow-onset effects of climate change. Germany supports such a holistic approach to "comprehensive climate risk management" through its development cooperation activities.
  • Adaptation activities, disaster risk management and tools to cope with loss and damage (for example climate risk insurance) all help to improve resilience or, in other words, the ability to cope with changes brought about by climate change. Such steps can help ensure that people will be able to remain where they live, or help create the right conditions for a swift return.
  • Measures to strengthen the resilience of cities are important, since climate change tends, within most countries or regions, to lead to migration movements predominantly into urban areas. That is why activities need to be geared towards protecting migrants and displaced persons who move into urban areas.
  • When implementing measures to mitigate the effects of climate change, special attention must be paid to climate-sensitive branches of economic activity such as the agricultural, fishing and water sectors. Measures to introduce sustainable land use planning or conserve water resources, for example, can reduce migratory pressures.
  • It is also important to create conditions which help affected population groups to make informed decisions about migration. In some cases, migration can be used as a strategy for coping with the impacts of climate change – for example when family members who have migrated elsewhere help augment the family income back home by sending money.
  • Some kinds of international migration (for example, seasonal labour migrations) can add further coping opportunities, in particular in cases where the migrants come from regions severely affected by climate change.
  • Special support must go to "trapped populations", i.e. people who are not able to migrate. Such support can include measures to improve the living conditions in the areas where they live, or to enable them to make an informed decision about whether to migrate – within their own country or abroad.
  • In some cases, adaptation activities will make little difference, and some areas will become uninhabitable as a result of climate change. In such cases, development cooperation activities can be used to ensure that voluntary and planned relocations as a 'last resort' are socially compatible, carried out in consultation with the people affected, and give people the chance to build a new life for themselves in a new location. In the absence of other solutions, relocations can be a way to reduce risks and save human lives.

International processes

In addition to its own programme, Germany also supports similar programmes at international level.

  • At the 21st Conference of the Parties to the Climate Convention held in Paris, Germany called for a working group to be set up to look into the challenges resulting from climate change induced displacement, migration and human mobility. As a consequence of the working group's findings, the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage associated with Climate Change Impacts was given the mandate in the 2015 Paris Agreement to set up a Task Force on Displacement. This task force took up its work in early 2017. It falls within the remit of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) to represent Germany on the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism.
  • The BMZ works to facilitate the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) at policy-making level as well as at bilateral and global level by incorporating in its long-term programme of development cooperation projects that will boost disaster risk management. Furthermore, the BMZ represents Germany in the World Bank's Consultative Group of the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR), and provides financial support for its trust fund and other initiatives targeted at reducing climate risks (such as CREWS, the Climate Risk Early Warning Systems). Valuable support for better disaster risk management also comes from the InsuResilience initiative, launched by Germany during its G7 Presidency in 2015.
  • The BMZ supports the proposals made in the Protection Agenda endorsed by the Nansen Initiative in October 2015. These proposals include the following priority measures: (i) improved management, within affected countries, of the risks that can lead to displacement; (ii) better humanitarian protection mechanisms for cross-border migration, and (iii) improved data collection and knowledge management. A Platform on Disaster Displacement was set up to help implement the Protection Agenda. Germany has taken the chair for the first 18 months, until the end of 2017.
  • Germany supports the implementation of the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants adopted in 2016, including the framing of a global compact to ensure safe, regular and orderly migration – to be called the "Global Compact on Migration". This compact is to take account of the negative effects of climate change as a driver of migration.
  • For the 2017/18 term, Germany and Morocco are co-chairs of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD). The GFMD is tasked with helping to frame specific parts of the global compact for safe, orderly and regular migration.

BMZ glossary

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